Village votes on liquor store proposal

Posted: Wednesday, July 12, 2006

ANCHORAGE - Nulato voters were deciding Tuesday whether the Western Alaska village should run a liquor store.

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If the initiative passes, the Athabascan village of 310 people would become the fifth in Alaska to run a liquor store.

Nulato is currently a "wet" village. That means alcohol possession is legal, even though to get it villagers must travel about 15 miles up the Yukon River to the Last Chance liquor store or pay high prices from local bootleggers.

Opponents say Nulato's drinking problem would grow if the measure passes. Supporters say it would make it safer because residents wouldn't risk their lives traveling upriver in bad weather.

Mayor Glenn Demoski said a liquor store could pay for police and youth programs, including some that combat alcoholism. The village has no police or safety officer.

Demoski said he was appointed mayor six weeks ago after Royse Purinton, a co-sponsor of the initiative, stepped down for health reasons.

Nulato hasn't calculated how much the store might bring in or how it would operate because it can't take a position on the measure, according to city treasurer Rebecca Agnes. She said the city is barely making ends meet, in part because of high fuel prices.

Nulato would be the first village in 13 years to open a city-run liquor store. Klawock in Southeast Alaska was the most recent.

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